We set our alarm today and had breakfast on the veranda before packing up our stuff yet again. Tony the guesthouse owner has been great, very friendly and obliging and Simon pays him a little over what we owe for his troubles. Which have mainly been making lots of coffee and finding us cokes and beers at night!
He orders us a rickshaw and we are taken to the houseboat, it is a converted rice barge with an upper and lower deck, a dining area and two bedrooms and is quite luxurious. At our disposal for the next 24 hours are 3 fellas including an on board chef. All our meals are included and we ask a lad to stock up on soft drinks and beer before we go.
At around 12ish we’re off and within 5 minutes are gently floating across a huge still lake, the only noises are ducks quacking and the hum of the engine which is frequently
turned off so that we can drift peacefully. The fella’s propel the boat using long poles and several smaller boats paddle past. Someone offers us 3 lobsters for 1000 rupees but I’m glad we turned him down when Suresh the chef produces a simple but tasty meal of fried fish, salad, chilli green beans, spicy cabbage and plain rice. We also polished off 3 strong beers and 2 packets of cashews and all agree we are completely stuffed.
The backwaters consist of a massive network of canals, lagoons and lakes and with the sun beating down and a warm breeze the houseboats are the perfect way to explore them.
We pass temples and small villages and Suresh points out a coir factory. The backwaters are lined with palm trees and flat rice fields stretch either side as far as I can see.
We stop off at the riverside, Simon and Ali go to inspect some huge fresh water prawns and they decide to buy four as an addition to our dinner tonight. I was worried that we might go hungry and we brought lots of snacks onboard but I needn’t have worried as there is a large basket of fresh fruit on the table and soon a snack of a sort of deep fried sweet bread and cups of chai are produced.
I spend the afternoon lying on the front of the boat watching the peaceful backwaters go by and Simon does an hour or so of maths with the kids.
At dusk we moor up at the lakeside and watch the beautiful sunset. Sitting in the darkness in the warm night air, with the sweet smell of the mosquito coils and the sound of cicadas and some distant drumming from across the water is an absolutely awesome and magical experience. There is a full moon and although far across the lake I can just make out faint lights from other houseboats, in the blackness it is easy to imagine we are the only people here.
Our only light comes from a single light bulb and it is literally alive with buzzing insects from small flies to huge flying beasts. These in turn attract lots of small lizards which dart everywhere on the walls of the boat. My friend Nicky bought me a lovely fine mesh sarong a few months before we came away and I remember her saying to me that I would find lots of uses for it. It has undoubtedly been the most useful thing I brought with me and I have worn it as a scarf, skirt, top and dress. I have slept on it and under it; it has been my comfort blanket on bus journeys and protected me from the sun and the cold. Tonight I’m so glad I have it as it makes a perfect mosquito net and I think thanks Nicky for such a great present as we get bombarded by hoards of winged creatures.
At around 9pm Suresh tells us our dinner is ready, it looks fantastic and so much food, we’ll never be able to eat it all. The prawns have been cooked with spices, coconut and lemon and there is a spicy chicken curry, vegetable rice, chapattis and several different types of vegetable dishes. We finish our meal with some fresh pineapple and then sit listening to Ali playing his guitar; today has been a perfect day.